Your Holiday Gift Guide for that Special Graduate Student in Your Life

It’s that time of year again: along with all the delights of holiday treats and festive music and tacky sweaters come awkward conversations with your family and friends who don’t know how to ask you how your graduate program is going, but still feel obligated to do so. In an ideal world, Uncle Tim will just give you a reassuring side-hug while he refills your wine glass to the brim, but we all know that you’re not getting off that easy. Sometimes that well-meaning uncle will ask how long til you graduate (a bad idea); sometimes that old church friend will ask about your plans and prospects post-degree (a worse idea). When they do that, and you feel the tide of despair and rage rising in your chest, hand them this holiday gift guide and remind them of the other reason for the season: giving to those less fortunate like you, dear graduate student, who are plagued by anxiety, a too-high caffeine tolerance, and an advisor who does not understand the meaning of “break.”

Arranged from least to most expensive (kind of), I humbly offer this guide to buying the grad student in your life gifts they will love and/or actually need.

Nerdy socks


No matter what your grad student’s nerdy jam, there are socks out there to proclaim it to the world.

Tote bag


If your dear grad student has to lug piles of books back and forth from library to home to class and back again, they might as well do it in style.

Book stand

book stand

To help combat that early onset osteoporosis.
Daily planner/calendar


Make impossible to-do lists and write everything down so your grad student can keep track of exactly how far behind they are at any given moment.

Lap desk

lap desk.jpg

It’s hard to get out of bed some days. This way, the dear graduate student in your life won’t have to.

Electric kettle


Grab one that plays a happy tune to take your grad student’s mind off their growing workload and sense of despair!



Maintaining sanity in graduate school requires alcohol. If you care about your graduate student, you will help them maintain sanity in whatever form is most appropriate for your budget, be that a nice bottle of whiskey or a subscription to the Wine of the Month club. Just go for something a little nicer than the two-buck Chuck your grad student is buying for themselves.



Big enough to hold all the library books your grad student is hoarding, but skinny enough to fit in their tiny living room.

Espresso maker


Your grad student needs it, you can afford it.

Charitable donations

No, I’m not talking about writing your grad student a check for Christmas (though I’m sure their smoking credit card would thank you profusely for that!). Every discipline worth studying in graduate school touches on a part of our larger society that deserves your solidarity and your financial support. If your grad student studies science, donate in their name to a program supporting girls or traditionally underrepresented peoples in science; if they’re an English PhD, donate some books to your local public library. If your grad student is a classicist like me, give to The Sportula in their honor so that junior scholars just scraping by can get help with the (sometimes astounding) costs of school.

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